The veteran running back will return to the team for his fifth season on a one-year, $1.75 million deal, according to ESPN.com's Adam Caplan (h/t ESPN.com's Adam Schefter). Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News confirmed the report.
"If u really know me and know what I stand for u had no doubt," Dunbar said on Twitter. "Glad to be back for another year!"
Dunbar was a free agent and is coming off a season-ending knee injury suffered just four games into the 2015 campaign. He had met with the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears this offseason before re-signing with Dallas, per George.
Dunbar was a vital part of the Cowboys’ passing game before his injury, with 21 receptions for 215 yards. At that pace over a 16-game stretch, he would’ve finished as the team’s leading receiver.
He rarely contributed in Dallas’ rushing attack, tallying just five carries for 67 yards, with his longest rush at 45 yards. In his four seasons, he’s run for 391 yards on 85 carries with zero touchdowns.
The Cowboys will still turn to Darren McFadden as their primary back following his first 1,000-yard rushing season since 2010. The second-year Cowboy is locked up for one more season and will be a cost-efficient $2.15 million hit against the cap in 2016, per Spotrac.
After losing 2014 rushing champion DeMarco Murray in free agency last offseason, the Cowboys backfield looked to be in trouble. But Dallas spread Murray's contributions to five running backs and didn’t have much of a drop-off, finishing with the league’s ninth-best rushing offense.
In seeing Dunbar draw interest from multiple NFC teams, the Cowboys wanted to take action to ensure at least part of their backfield remained intact—even if Dunbar will cost more than he ever has. The former undrafted free agent picked up a pay raise of $208,000 from the one-year deal he signed last offseason.
David Moore of the Dallas Morning News offered his take on Dunbar meeting with other teams on the paper's Ballzy podcast before the tailback was re-signed:
I think it shows you what a special player [Dunbar] is and how he brings an element to an offense that there isn't a lot [of] out there right now. The question with Lance going in is coming off the major injury. It's a little unclear right now if what, if anything, he's going to be able to do in training camp. I think these other teams are just trying to get an idea where he is physically and when he would be able to contribute.
Dunbar is the seventh free agent the Cowboys have been able to retain this offseason along with Rolando McClain, Morris Claiborne, James Hanna, Kyle Wilber, Charles Brown and Josh Thomas.
With Robert Turbin and Joseph Randle gone, Dunbar could possibly see a more enhanced role in the ground game. And by keeping him in the mold, Dallas is diversifying its personnel to have a sophisticated attack out of the backfield with a mix of run and pass.